Is kratom safe enough for the fight against opioids?
Swogger and Walsh reviewed the combined results of 13 studies conducted between January 1960 and July 2017, using data from 28,745 individuals. “There is a clear need for more rigorous, well-controlled, prospective studies to support a sophisticated, nuanced understanding of the plant,” says Swogger. “But data across cultures indicated that kratom has a legitimate role to play in mitigating harms associated with opioid dependence. The bulk of the available research supports kratom’s benefits as a milder, less addictive, and less-dangerous substance than opioids, and one that appears far less likely to cause fatal overdose.”
“There is a lot of confusing information about kratom in the media that makes it difficult for clinicians and the public to make informed choices,” says lead author Marc T. Swogger, associate professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center’s psychiatry department. “This study clarifies that there is no good scientific basis for claims that kratom causes psychosis, suicide, or violence, and the available data do not indicate that kratom is a significant public health problem.” Coauthor Zach Walsh, associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia notes that current approaches to addressing the opioid epidemic are leaving large numbers of high-need individuals without effective treatment. “We need to explore all options, and our findings suggest it’s time to carefully examine the potential of this ancient plant,” says Walsh.